So When Was He Born Again? (Part 2)

The other day I was reviewing my online files, which are in a quite a state, and I rediscovered one of my signature Primitive Word Charts™ compiling data encountered in a Civil War pension file about my gg-grandfather Martin Haigney’s date of birth.

It’s another one of those exercises in How Old Do You Think You Are? Here goes!

YEAR NOTES
1890 Martin says he is 57 on his initial application. 

Birth year: Approximately 1833.

1890 Martin’s neighbors say he is “about sixty”. 

Birth year: Approximately 1830.

1897 Martin says he is 66 on his application for an increase. 

Birth year: Approximately 1831.

1907 Martin gives his date of birth as 2 March 1831 on his declaration for continuance of his pension. He states age as “past age of 75 years.”
1907 Army records supplied in support of Martin’s declaration of 1907 state his age on (a) 7 Mar 1859 as 27 and his age on (b) 7 Mar 1864 as 32. 

Birth year (a) 1832; Birth year (b) 1832.

1907 Martin’s affadavit affirms that to the best of his recollection he was 22 years old on his first enlistment, 7 March 1854. He says he must have been born in 1832, not 1831 as stated on his initial 1907 application.
1908 Martin gives his date of birth as 18 March 1832 in an application for an increase.
1908 Martin’s date of birth is noted as 18 March 1832 in approval of increase

Notes:

  1. Martin did not know the exact date or year of his birth:
    1. He gives an age on his initial application that doesn’t agree with the age he would be from information on later applications.
    2. He furnishes two different birthdays – 2 March and 18 March – on different documents.
    3. In his affidavit of 1907, he says his age at the time of his first enlistment is “to the best of my recollection.”
  2. Note that the birth month and the enlistment month are the same. It is possible that the birth date given was a guess pegged to a date everybody did actually agree upon – the date Martin first enlisted in the army.
  3. The pension forms do not uniformly require birth dates. The early forms asked only for age.
  4. At this point a birth year of 1832 seems to be a decent estimate. Using the information from the Army’s enlistment records, we know the age Martin gave at his re-enlistment in 1859 was 27. At least this record was compiled closest to whatever the actual date was.
  5. Of course, all this information is only from one source — the pension file. The census birth date estimates skip around: 1832 in the 1860 census; 1830 in the 1870 census; 1827 in the 1880 census; 1835 in the 1900 census; 1830 in the 1910 census. His tombstone lists a birthdate of 1829.

What is the moral of this particular tale, you might ask? There might not be much of one, but I’ll take a stab at it:

First: “To the best of my recollection” sure doesn’t mean “my exact recollection” on anybody’s part.

Second: You know when they say to use a wide date range when searching databases, no matter what you know you know about a person? Listen to them.

Note From The Dept. of Mangled Prose: Ha! I just noticed that I labeled Part One “When Were He Born Again?” A product of the post-turkey-day haze, I guess. Should I change it, or should it stand as part of the historical record? Decisions, decisions.


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